A Digital Revolution Rocks the Colombian Elections

By Kimberly Reyes (@CommDuCoeur)

When Presidential nominee Juan Manuel Santos swept the election last Sunday, June 20th, the landslide victory meant more to the Colombian people than just a new President: it marked the largest voter turnout in Colombian history, and demonstrated the overwhelming power of social media to unite people towards achieving a common goal.

The future wasn’t so bright for former Colombian Defense Minister Santos, who was trailing candidate Antanas Mockus in the polls by 12 points on May 3rd, the day he launched his digital campaign.  By May 30th, Santos’ online initiatives had picked up enough momentum to win more than double his contender’s votes during the preliminary round – 46.6% to Mockus’ 21.5%.

As part of his extensive digital strategy, Santos rolled out an interactive website that connected voters to any of his various social media channels, including Facebook, Flickr, Vimeo, YouTube, and Twitter.  The campaign also included an iPhone app, the first ever for a Colombian politician, as well as the SuperSantos virtual game, where the presidential nominee fights poverty, corruption, unemployment, and drug trafficking (see video above).  Santos supporters organized “popcorn parties” that encouraged group gatherings to watch the presidential debates online, and could download customized promotional materials for each city and state in the country from SantosPresidente.com.  Santos was able to collect over 4 million opt-in e-mail addresses, assembled the first advanced Ustream team to broadcast live video via iPhone, and developed an opt-in SMS messaging service that worked across all national carriers.  Using their voter IDs, citizens could access digital maps and suggested routes to their nearest voting location.

Acknowledging that all presidential candidates are vulnerable to slander in the Web 2.0 arena, from spam to fake profiles, the Santos team erected a virtual Wall of Shame to facilitate clean and fair elections.  Colombians were given a space where they could report any abusive, offensive, false, or prejudicial content that they find on the Web and measures were taken to bring the perpetrators to justice, using cutting-edge technology to fully identify the offender.

As a result of Santos’ 50-day digital revolution, more than 13 million voters took to the polls in the final round, 9 million of whom elected Santos into office.  But an even bigger victory was had by Latin America as a whole, as Santos’ campaign offered a glimpse into how digital innovation can heavily impact political outcomes.

Our own DJ Edgerton had this to say about the election: “Regardless of who you wanted to win, it’s great to see how digital initiatives influenced the democratic outcome.  Colombians should be very proud of that democratic process, and Zemogians should be very proud of the industry we work in.”

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